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Can - Tago Mago CD (album) cover

TAGO MAGO

Can

 

Krautrock

3.92 | 408 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars What ties together the far-flung branches of musical genres such as (among others) psychedelia, progressive rock, free jazz, avant-garde classical, punk rock, electronica, industrial, and post-rock? Why, CAN of course. No single band has been as influential to explorers of the outer realms of modern music. It's almost shameful how few people know of this band, given the immense impact such albums as "Tago Mago" had. The essential problem with CAN's output (at least up to the late 70s) is that it is difficult to listen to, even for those accustomed to rock's odder fringes.

Newcomers, do what you can to prepare yourself. Take the wild and free days of early PINK FLOYD (up to and including the more bizarre moments of "Ummagumma"), make sure you're comfortable with ZAPPA's off-kilter melding of rock and jazz, and it wouldn't hurt to listen to things like APHRODITE'S CHILD's "666" and COMUS' "First Utterance" a few times before you have a decent context for your first "Tago Mago" experience. You still won't be fully ready for the unique and unsettling wonders of CAN, but at least you won't be trying to compare them to bands like DREAM THEATER or RUSH or CAMEL. This is much more progressive, in every sense of the word.

Have I said anything about the album? Well, words are almost inadequate. A more meaningful way to write about "Tago Mago" would be in free-form poetry comprised of a few different languages as well as numerous nonsense words, illustrated with impressionist doodles on the margins, and repeated ad infinitum for effect. Otherwise, it's just the same old rhetorical analysis: a group of talented, versatile and uninhibited musicians who find strict melodic structures to be rather limiting but enjoy a good groove as much as any other funky beast- and aren't afraid to stretch it out for almost 20 minutes at a time. It's no wonder many prog fans have trouble with it; not only can you dance to it, but it defies the notion that musical discipline is best expressed in virtuosity. It explores instead of telling a story, it allows your mind to investigate itself rather than filling you with external enlightenment. It could scare people around you, or make them laugh; either response is acceptable. Drugs are optional accessories (and I would NEVER want to be accused of recommending or requiring them, wink wink), but more than one person has had increased luck approaching CAN in an altered state.

I guess I can't objectively say that "Tago Mago" is for everyone- there will always be people who simply don't care for such unrestrained ecstasy (or unrestrained weirdness for its own sake, depending on your point of view), and there will always be people who equate artistic opacity with a kind of cheat or laziness. However, works of this kind of rare originality and importance transcend the mitigating factors of accesibility and applicability...it is both a masterpiece and essential (in the sense that all subsequent music would not have been the same without it), so I'll have to award the full score. CAN do!

James Lee | 5/5 |

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